Gorl and other painfully average memes, explained

Memes exist on a spectrum. There are the lazy ones and the creative ones. The future quality of meme content relies on our ability to identify the two.

Did you know that gorl is Googled approximately 750,000 times every month? Perhaps people are making a typo… ‘i’ on the keyboard is directly next to ‘o’, after all. But maybe, just maybe, we’re a generation that’s succumbed to the painfully average.

Let me explain.


‘Passable’ Memes

YouTube video essayist, Nerdwriter, did an exposé on how cinema has become a whitewash of ‘passable’ movies. He argued that “Passable movies express human experience not through the lens of real life, but through other movies”. In doing so, these films have lost their realism. Their humanity.

I believe a similar observation can be applied to the medium of memes. When memes become an endless loop of copying that stop generating new ideas from lived experience, they become stale, and void of human relatability.

For example, COVID memes didn’t copy other memes. They were born out of a desire to project and share in our collective anxieties surrounding the pandemic. Not only was this funnier than recycled content, but it was also healthy for our mental state. Seeing our fears reflected by others through memes help create a sense of community and togetherness.

Anyway, back to our epidemic of lazy memes. Nerdwriter’s observation of banal movies inspired me to take a holistic look at gorl and other popular memes. I want to explore why gorl and other painfully average memes are briefly amusing, but ultimately devoid of greater meaning and the human experience.

This is why we, collectively, as social media consumers, need to give them the flick. If you’ll indulge me, let’s talk examples.


Here’s how gorl started. Gru, the protagonist of Despicable Me has a strong European accent. A Twitter user noticed that when he said ‘girl’, it sounded like ‘gorl’, so this happened:

A witty observation, no doubt. However, what followed was a pastiche of Gru’s face on celebrities without legitimate reasoning. There was Gru on Ed Sheeran. Gru on Avril Lavigne. Gru on Justin Bieber. It became the ‘hottest’ meme of 2018, for some reason.

In my opinion, it was funny for a second, but about as surface level as memes get. The gorl meme taught us nothing and didn’t make us think, yet still generated millions of clicks. Apparently, a copy and paste of Gru’s face onto some A-Lister with the word ‘gorl’ written above it were enough to satisfy. Am I in the minority here?

The laziness in creativity reminds me of how The Simpsons writing got simpler and simpler over time. Whereas an early-season would have portrayed Homer as an idiot that loved his family very much, a modern episode would leave it at Homer being an idiot, removing that added layer of believability, complexity, and realism.

Roll Safe

Here’s another average meme that got the public’s green light. You’ve no doubt seen roll safe before, probably surrounded by some impact font, and a clever life anecdote. I’ll be honest. Initially, this 2016 meme was hilarious to me. The cheeky tapping of the head perfectly mirrored that devious feeling you get when you achieve your goals inconspicuously. It’s definitely a cut above gorl.

That being said, the meme never evolved from its base concept. Despite being everywhere, the meme was a one-track joke, repeated over and over again. The original concept wasn’t ambiguous enough to fly any higher. Let’s take a look at some more creative memes, to further highlight why gorl, and so many others, fall flat.

Hide The Pain Harold

Hide the pain Harold is meme culture at its more imaginative end. Unlike gorl and roll safe, HTPH encouraged meme lords to attach their queasiest personal experiences to Harold’s masked emotions. To make a funny HTPH meme, you had to rummage in the caverns of your darkest memories and trauma to mirror the guttural cringe of the pained smile.

What’s even funnier about HTPH is that the image came from a stock photo session, where the actor was asked to look happy. This means the pained smile is completely believable. He’s genuinely trying to look happy in the photo, but he simply can’t muster it.  The end result? Goddmamn relatability. It reflects real life. A photoshoot can clearly take the life out of a man. Take a look at these memes below. Do they resonate with you more than gorl and roll safe? I really hope so.

Two Buttons

Here’s another cracker that benefits from its imaginative nature. Instead of relying on the comedy of the template like gorl, memers have to get creative and dig deep. This meme at its core is simple and striking. All it needs is your best ideas and it’s bound to connect with a familiar audience. What do you think of these?


If we want the memes that flood our social media feeds to be less average, we need to think critically. Ask yourself the big questions. Does the meme speak to you? Why?

Is it genuinely funny or is it just a popular icon’s face plastered onto something else? The quality of our memes is up to us. Heart-react memes that are creative. Ignore the lowest common denominator memes that go for cheap, lazy laughs. I’ll leave you with a quote from this articles’ inspirational, Nerdwriter: “great stories are always the ones that observe people, truthfully”.